Spiegel's Daily Take Body Bags for New Orleans

Soldiers and police are evacuating the last holdouts in New Orleans, and collecting the dead bodies, as more foreign aid starts to arrive. Meanwhile, another German politician has gone after Bush for his handling of Katrina, saying the US president should be shot.

The evacuation of New Orleans continues.

The evacuation of New Orleans continues.

The cleanup effort in New Orleans started in earnest this week as the floodwaters slowly started to recede. The Federal Emergency Management Authority (FEMA) has 25,000 body bags on hand in Louisiana, and authorities are moving through the flooded city to clear out the living and the dead.

Because of the threat of disease from the sewage- and corpse-infested water, police and soldiers carrying guns have mounted a house-to-house search to evacuate the city's 10,000 people who have been unable or unwilling to leave their homes.

Mayor Ray Nagin ordered the evacuation late Tuesday, saying the risk of not just disease but also gas-leak fires had made the city uninhabitable, even in the drier districts. He wants police and soldiers to use force "if necessary." But troops are keen to avoid the nightmare of dragging out residents at gunpoint, and so far there have been no reports of violent evacuations.

Which doesn't mean the streets are peaceful. A SWAT special operations police force, involving more than 100 officers and seven armoured personnel carriers, flushed a man out of a housing project who had been shooting at workers trying to fix cell-phone towers.

No one is sure yet how many people have died in the disaster. Mayor Nagin has estimated up to 10,000. Bob Johannessen, spokesman for the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals, said that FEMA is ready with about 25,000 body bags for the entire state. "We don't know what to expect," he said. "It means we're prepared."

Help from other countries has started to arrive too -- although slowly. A convoy of Mexican army trucks rolled into the United States on Wednesday lugging two mobile kitchens, water-treatment plants, blankets and food, and 15 trailers of bottled water, as well as a team of engineers, doctors, and nurses. It was the first Mexican military presence on American soil since the Mexican-American War, which ended in 1847.

Dozens of other nations have offered aid, but some equipment and supplies -- from Sweden and India for example - have been waiting in warehouses or even on runways for American officials to clear them for delivery. Americans and Europeans are learning to work together again, said Barbara Helfferich, spokeswoman for the European Commission. "Coordination is the most difficult thing to learn in any relief effort."

Journalists in Trouble

Jacob Appelbaum, a blogger from San Francisco, has decided to set up a radio station inside the Houston Astrodome and hand out 10,000 radios to keep New Orleans refugees up to date on relief and salvage efforts. Appelbaum travelled to Iraq last April as a citizen-journalist. Now he and fellow organizers at the Prometheus Radio Project have won a license to build a 30-watt radio station inside the Astrodome.

Despite the worthiness of Appelbaum's idea, petty stadium officials have blocked the project. According to Appelbaum's Web site, people inside the stadium "were overjoyed to hear that they would get a radio station with emergency information, with information on job interviews, food, housing, lost children, found persons, clothing and other important information. It breaks my heart," he writes, that the project papers were stamped "denied."

He has nevertheless managed to post a series of photos from inside the Astrodome.

But Appelbaum's problems seem minor compared to a pair of reporters last week in New Orleans who were targeted by police when one of them tried to photograph a man injured in a shootout. This is becoming a pattern: Remember the Palestine Hotel, full of journalists and targeted (fatally) by an American tank? In this case, a New Orleans Times-Picayune reporter named Gordon Russell watched civilians and police trade gunfire leave "one man dead in a pool of blood." A photographer from the New York Times, who was with Russell at the time, snapped a picture only to find police aiming weapons at him. They confiscated his camera as well as Russell's notebook. There are differing reports as to the exact details of the event, but the National Press Photographers Association Web site gives one version. The skeptical among us can't help but wonder whether violence against journalists -- whether it be from cops in New Orleans, or from marines fighting in Iraq -- is a natural part of working in a battle zone or somehow part of armed forces training.

Bashing Bush

President Bush "should be shot" for mismanaging the flood catastrophe, were the rather forthright words of the German CDU Christian Democrat politician Andreas Renner. While this is what some of his compatriots may think in private, the comments were certainly unwise coming from a high-ranking minister.

Renner, who has a reputation for mouthing off, made the comment while touring a business in a small town near Tübingen, with a group of scribbling reporters who eagerly took down every word. He has since retracted the statement, but not before trying to weasel out of it by saying he meant "shot politically." Members of the ruling Social Democratic SPD party -- which is currently fighting an election battle with Angela Merkel's center-right CDU party -- have called for Renner's resignation. No doubt in retribution for events in 2002, when a member of the SPD had to resign in 2002 for comparing Bush to Adolf Hitler.

Election Anarchy Offends Germans

If you're bored by party political broadcasts you should come to Germany. A little-known anarchist party has caused a furore after their election campaign video (click here for Windows Media and here for Quicktime) was aired on German television this week. The German Anarchist Pogo Party's (APPD) broadcast was heavily censored but still managed to provoke outrage from usually tolerant viewers.

Your average campaign ad tends to be a rather dull ensemble of trite policy statements and smiling, baby-kissing politicians. But not the APPD: their montage is notable for its total lack of campaign pledges, featuring instead a bacchanalian orgy of beer swilling, groping, bare-chested Neanderthals.

Set to a backing track of dubious musical quality, the video features a half-naked couple making out, while around them a post-pubescent, yet at the same time decidedly puerile, mob indulge in a primitive macho mixture of boozing, wrestling and general destruction. A man is shown injecting himself in his chest and a child wanders through the mêlée before attacking some furniture with an axe.

The heavily edited film was watched by an estimated 1 million viewers. All registered German political parties are entitled to broadcast time, and there was consequently nothing the authorities could do to stop the ad running on primetime TV.

With only 750 members, the party is unlikely to have a significant impact on the result of the election, but this hasn't stopped politicians of other parties weighing into the debate.

German Interior Minister Otto Schily has written to the election supervisory authority to ask why the APPD was granted party status in the first place. He branded the anarchist party a "disgrace to Germany." President of the Bundestag, Wolfgang Thierse, joined the chorus of opprobrium, claiming the video "goes against all human dignity and harms the protection of our youth."

The APPD's candidate for German chancellor, Wolfgang Wendland, bears a passing resemblance to Shrek, and among his policies he advocates mankind's return to stupidity. Party motto, "Arbeit ist Scheisse," ("work is shit") is unlikely to go down well with mainstream political efforts to get millions of unemployed Germans back to work.

Should you get the urge to watch the anarchy for yourself, the next APPD party ad will be broadcast on ZDF, September 12 at 21:40 CET.

Buying Shoes While Rome Burns



Condoleeza Rice embarrassed herself last week by taking a rather too-public vacation in Manhattan. "On Wednesday night," wrote the New York Daily News last Thursday, "Secretary Rice was booed by some audience members at the Monty Python musical 'Spamalot!' when the lights went up after the performance" -- just for being in the theatre while New Orleans disappeared underwater it seems. She was evidently not having a good day, as earlier that afternoon someone had yelled at her while shoe-shopping at Ferragamo. "How dare you shop for shoes while thousands are dying and homeless!" hollered a customer, who was then hustled out of the store. Whether the complainer expected Condie to go barefoot as a sign of penance for Bush's iniquities has not yet been made clear.


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